Greek doctors left my son to die, mother tells court

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The mother of a British holidaymaker implored a Greek court yesterday to punish the doctors and nurses she claimed had left her son to bleed to death after he fell from a balcony.

Pam Cummings told the court in Rhodes that her 24-year-old son, Christopher, would be alive if he had been given the emergency care to which he was entitled.

Three doctors, one male nurse and one female nurse have been charged with the negligent manslaughter of Christopher Rochester who died in June 2000 at the Rhodes Town Hospital the day after he fell from a balcony while on holiday on the island.

The court case follows a campaign by Mr Rochester's family to have the five medical staff charged in connection with his death. The family allege that an ambulance took 40 minutes to arrive and that Mr Rochester was "bounced about" on a stretcher and left lying on a hospital trolley despite being in severe pain.

Yesterday Mrs Cummings exercised her right under Greek law to address the Rhodes court before prosecution evidence was presented to the three presiding judges.

Speaking through a translator, Mrs Cummings, said: "I am standing here today, not for the first time, not for the second time but for the third time, to see justice done for the death of my son Christopher.

"My son was a lovely person who was kind and considerate, had many good friends, was a hard worker and enjoyed life. He had so much to live for. I was proud to be his mother but all of this has been taken away."

She added: "I believe, after Chris's accident, that if he had been given the emergency care and attention he was entitled to he would still be alive. Instead, his last few hours were spent in excruciating pain, knowing that nobody was helping him in his distress. What an horrific situation to happen in a hospital where trained staff should be on hand at all times. Chris must have been terrified."

The hospital says Mr Rochester and his friends were extremely drunk when the ambulance arrived. They were allegedly aggressive and unco-operative at the hospital, where the medical staff could not understand them because of their drunkenness.

In July 2001 an inquest in Britain recorded a verdict of accidental death contributed to by neglect. In recording his verdict, the North Durham coroner, Andrew Tweddle, said that he had "great concern about the standards of medical care" in Rhodes.

When Mr Rochester's body was returned home, one of his kidneys had been removed. After Mrs Cummings made an official protest, the Greek authorities sent a kidney from Rhodes but DNA tests showed it did not belong to Christopher.

Campaigns by the family and Kevan Jones, the Labour MP for North Durham, led to the three doctors and two nurses being charged with manslaughter by negligence. Yesterday Mrs Cummings said that her fight was "not with the island of Rhodes, or the Greek people, but with those five people charged with the death of my son through negligence".

She told the court: "I am here today to see justice carried out. It is only right and proper that these people be punished in a way that they are never allowed to let this happen again. My son suffered an untimely death, an unnatural death, but most of all he suffered an unnecessary death. He should still be with me, my family and his friends, but instead he is buried six feet under the ground." She asked the judges: "How could these people let this happen, have they no regard for human life?"

She also spoke of the "horrendous" struggle of the family in getting the case to court.

George Cummings, Christopher's stepfather, said before the hearing yesterday: "What we want is for these people to know that what they did was wrong and that taking his life through neglect was wrong.

"In their profession they have sworn to preserve life as best they can and if they had done that and he had slipped away then that is acceptable."

He added: "But for five staff to stand back and let a 24-year-old die in agony and fear is unforgivable. They allowed him to die without any compassion or feeling whatsoever."

The hearing continues.

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